Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is It Possible That Democracy is Dying? By Max Hastings.

Tyrannies across the world are crushing dissent. In Britain contempt for the political class is growing. Is it possible that democracy is dying? By Max Hastings. Daily Mail, June 21, 2013.

When the democratic process isn’t enough. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), June 26, 2013.


Few modern prophets prove themselves wise enough to invite comparison with Moses, but Francis Fukuyama made more of an ass of himself than most.

Twenty years ago, the American academic wrote a book entitled The End of History. In it, he announced that with the end of the Cold War and collapse of Communism, liberal democracy had triumphed. It would become forever the dominant system around the world, “the final form of human government.”

Americans alternate bouts of flagellation about their country with orgies of self-congratulation. They loved Fukuyama’s book, which represented them as the winning side, and bought it in truckloads.

For five minutes, it seemed possible that the author’s thesis could be right. In the Nineties, even Mother Russia, cradle of tyranny, seemed to be embracing popular consent and freedom.

Communism was the last of the 20th century’s evil “isms” to suffer defeat, after two world wars in which the democracies battled against militarism, fascism and Nazism.
. . . .

A few surviving regimes, notably in China, Vietnam and Cuba, still professed themselves communist.

But the big beasts in Beijing were as greedy and materialistic as Wall Street bankers. Only a dwindling band of British university lecturers continued to fool themselves that Karl Marx was right about mankind’s destiny.

Yet today, barely a generation since the publication of The End of History, its thesis echoes hollow.

Even if communism is a dying duck, everywhere brutal dictatorships are flourishing as if their societies’ flirtations with democracy had never happened.

Naive Europeans hailed the 2010 “Arab Spring” as promising a new era in the Middle East. Yet it seems more likely that those nations – Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – will merely be ruled by new autocrats.

The truth is that democracy is ailing – not least here in Britain. Many people despise and distrust politicians. . . . Modern politics has become meaningless to most people. It has simply descended into a struggle for power among small and unrepresentative elites, devoid of convictions or integrity, who ignore or defy the views of the people who elect them.
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China may increasingly embrace capitalist economics, but President Xi Jinping and his politburo are implacable in denying their people liberty to do anything save make money.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is an unashamed Stalinist. His country is in the hands of a gangster elite, committed to suppressing dissent and bent upon personal enrichment. Putin himself is thought to have accrued billions in his personal bank accounts.
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In the U.S., sensible people talk and write openly about a democratic crisis. The bitter divisions between Republicans and Democrats have created gridlock in both houses of Congress.

The old willingness to cut deals and make compromises to keep government moving has become a dead letter.

A large chunk of the U.S., and especially its old, white, mid-Western, Western and southern heartland, feels as disenfranchised as do UKIP supporters in Britain. It sees a host of things being done, or not done, in Washington, which inspires bitter hostility on religious, economic or social grounds.

The U.S. came closest to being a single nation in the Forties and Fifties, partly as a result of World War II. Today, though, it is profoundly divided, and likely to remain so, not least as a result of the rise of the Latino population.

Different sections of U.S. society want vastly different things for the country; their political leaders lack the will or gifts to reconcile them. And so too Britain.